Tag Archive | "Jason Brown"

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Ravens expected to be without two key contributors for start of offseason program

Posted on 13 April 2012 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will officially open their Owings Mills facility for the start of their offseason workout program on Monday, but they shouldn’t expect to see two key starters waiting at the door.

Running back Ray Rice and starting cornerback Cary Williams are not expected to attend the voluntary workouts that will begin on Monday. Many veterans are typically absent at the start of the workouts, but the absences of both Rice and Williams stem from the status of their respective contracts.

After receiving the franchise tag in early March, Rice and agent Todd France have gotten nowhere with the Ravens in long-term contract negotiations and is not expected to attend organized team activities without a new contract. The two-time Pro Bowl back is currently scheduled to play with the $7.7 million franchise tender should the sides fail to reach an agreement on a new contract by July 15, and it’s possible he would decide to hold out during training camp without a new deal in place.

Meanwhile, Williams was given a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, which would pay him a $1.92 million salary for the 2012 season. Williams’ agent Marc Lillibridge also represents Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, who signed a six-year, $50 million contract last week, so it’s interesting to speculate how that might have impacted the sides’ negotiations regarding a new deal for Williams.

Attempts to reach Lillibridge for comment were unsuccessful.

Williams is not expected to sign his restricted tender for a few more weeks, according to the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora. However, the 6-foot-1 corner would probably not benefit from holding out considering the Ravens drafted Jimmy Smith in the first round of last year’s draft. Restricted free agents have until June 15 to sign the offered tender or the team may reduce the tendered amount to 110 percent of last year’s salary while still retaining the rights to the player.

Neither Rice nor Williams is required to report for voluntary workouts and are currently not under contract.

The Ravens have not yet announced the dates for their mandatory minicamp.

In other news, La Canfora reported the Ravens have made a “conservative” one-year offer to center-guard Jason Brown, who played in Baltimore from 2005 to 2008. Most recently with the St. Louis Rams, Brown was released earlier this offseason and was benched at one point last season due to ineffective play.

The Ravens are an estimated $1.9 million under the salary cap, meaning any offer to Brown or another veteran interior lineman would likely barely exceed the league minimum for veterans.

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (41-60)

Posted on 27 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered jersey numbers 1 through 40 if you missed them.

Part 3 (41-60) presents the most obvious choice on the list—who was also chosen as the greatest player to wear his number in the history of the National Football League—as well as two of the most obscure numbers in team history.

41 Frank Walker (2008-09)

He was never popular among fans due to his propensity for drawing penalty flags, but Walker was not as bad as some made him out to be. Injuries often forced the backup into starter duty where his weaknesses were exposed.

His only competition for this number was Ralph Staten, a once-promising safety who was jettisoned from the team due to character issues in the spring of 1999. Regardless of where you stand with Walker, he is a pretty clear choice and has at least one big fan on YouTube.

Knowing Walker, it would not be a complete shock to find out he made this video himself.

42 Anthony Mitchell (2000-02)

I went back and forth between Mitchell and fullback Lorenzo Neal, but Mitchell’s three seasons in Baltimore allowed him to grab the honor. Mitchell spent his first two seasons with the Ravens as a special teams contributor before his workload in the secondary increased in 2002, starting six games and grabbing three interceptions.

Of course, the mere mention of Mitchell makes Baltimore think about a certain blocked field goal return in Nashville (check the 3:30 mark).

43 Haruki Nakamura (2008-present)

Despite a promising future, Nakamura has done little to distinguish himself other than contributing on special teams in his first two seasons. However, it tops the work of other defensive backs like Vashone Adams and Anthony Poindexter.

44 Jason Brookins (2000-01)

The big tailback rushed for 551 yards in 2001, beating out the likes of Tony Vinson and Willie Gaston. Brookins is most remembered for leaving the Packers camp a year later after the staff asked him for his playbook, the traditional sign that a player is being cut. It turns out the coaching staff only wanted to add some new plays and by the time Brookins received the message, Green Bay coach Mike Sherman decided to cut the running back.

And the Baltimore coaching staff questioned his decision-making and intelligence while with the Ravens. Imagine that.

45 Corey Harris (1998-2001)

Harris

Harris spent most of his Ravens career as a backup and solid return man, but stepped up in a big way when safety Kim Herring went down with a sprained ankle in the 2000 playoffs. He started against Tennessee and Oakland and started all 16 at strong safety the following season.

46 B.J. Ward (2005)

The Florida State safety played in 15 games in 2005, making 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. Why is he the pick at No. 46? There is no record of any other player wearing the number in the regular season for the Ravens.

47 Will Demps (2002-2005)

The undrafted rookie was the surprise of training camp in 2002, not only winning a roster spot but becoming a starting safety next to Ed Reed for four seasons. Demps returned an interception for a touchdown in the Ravens’ only playoff game during his time in Baltimore, a 20-17 loss to the Titans in January 2004.

48 Frank Hartley (1996)

If linebacker Edgar Jones — who had previously worn Nos. 91 and 84 before switching to 48 this offseason — makes the 53-man roster this season, he immediately grabs the distinction. Until then, the tight end Hartley holds this spot despite never making a catch in eight games in 1996.

Don’t worry, I didn’t remember him either.

49 Chad Williams (2002-05)

Chad Williams

Williams is the easy choice after playing four seasons in Baltimore, registering eight interceptions and scoring three touchdowns as a backup safety.

50 Antwan Barnes (2007-present)

Though Dunbar graduate Tommy Polley and reserve linebacker Brad Jackson earn strong consideration, Barnes wins the honor with five career sacks and strong special teams play over his first three seasons with the Ravens. Despite a high ceiling, Barnes has yet to provide a consist impact as a pass rusher off the edge, something he hopes to change this season.

51 Cornell Brown (1997-2000, 2002-04)

Some will argue special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo for this spot, but Cornell Brown is the obvious choice despite wearing No. 90 in his second stint with the Ravens. Brown made 25 starts and was very good against the run, ofter sharing time with Peter Boulware when the Pro Bowl linebacker was ailing.

52 Ray Lewis (1996-present)

Never mind that Lewis was selected by SI.com as the best ever to wear the jersey number in the NFL. When you think of the Baltimore Ravens, No. 52 is the image that overwhelmingly comes to mind.

One of the greatest defensive players ever.

53 Jameel McClain (2008-present)

Tyrell Peters, T.J. Slaughter, and the injury-cursed Dan Cody also wore the number, but McClain has done just enough in special teams and passing downs to grab the distinction. His stature can rise even higher if he earns the starting job at inside linebacker this season.

54 Roderick Green (2004-05)

Green never realized his full potential as a Raven, but he is a marginally-better choice than Tyrus McCloud, Shannon Taylor, or current linebacker Prescott Burgess for No. 54.

55 Terrell Suggs (2003-present)

Many feel Suggs has never lived up the hype or the record-setting contract inked in 2009, but he is one of the most complete outside linebackers in the league when healthy and motivated. His two-sack performance against the Steelers in the AFC Championship two seasons ago was borderline heroic after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Titans a week earlier.

More sentimental fans will argue for Jamie Sharper — who would be a unanimous choice for any linebacker number other than 55, 52, or 58 — but Suggs has had the superior career.

56 Ed Hartwell (2001-04)

Hartwell put his name on the Baltimore linebacker map when he led the team in tackles in 2002 after Ray Lewis was sidelined with a shoulder injury. A good linebacker in his own right, Hartwell was overshadowed in his last two seasons with the Ravens, a palpable frustration he even voiced before departing for Atlanta in 2005.

57 Bart Scott (2002-08)

Just as popular with the media as he was with the fans, Scott was an undrafted linebacker who made himself into a Pro Bowl force during his seven seasons with the Ravens. His “hot sauce” tackle of Reggie Bush gained notoriety, but the linebacker will always be remembered for a hit he laid on a certain Pittsburgh quarterback.

The number is currently reserved in honor of the heroic O.J. Brigance — who is certainly deserving as he continues to fight ALS — but Brigance would be the first to tell you Scott is the greatest Raven to don the No. 57.

58 Peter Boulware (1997-2005)

Boulware

The franchise’s all-time sack leader dealt with knee and shoulder injuries during his career, but he was a force as a pass rusher and made himself into an every-down linebacker after playing defensive end at Florida State. Boulware earned four trips to the Pro Bowl, won the 1997 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and is a member of the Ravens Ring of Honor.

59 Dannell Ellerbe (2009-present)

Ellerbe

Prior to the 2009 season, long snapper Joe Maese (2001-04) was the clear-cut selection here, but the undrafted Ellerbe made the 53-man roster and eventually wrestled away the starting inside linebacker spot from Tavares Gooden in the final month of his rookie season. Ellerbe’s interception against Oakland in Week 17 helped preserve a 21-13 win and a postseason berth for the 9-7 Ravens.

60 Jason Brown (2005-08)

Super Bowl-winning center Jeff Mitchell was blossoming into a Pro Bowl-caliber player before signing with the Carolina Panthers in 2001, allowing Jason Brown to seize recognition for this number. Drafted in the fourth round in 2005, Brown began his NFL career at left guard before moving to his college position of center in 2008. It earned him a huge payday with the St. Louis Rams the following offseason, as the Ravens could not afford to keep Brown.

Next up: For numbers 61-80, we will dive into the trenches with the offensive line, with a few obvious choices and several integers where we need to look long and hard to find a representative.

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Chiefs @ Ravens Game Preview

Posted on 11 September 2009 by Derek Arnold

RavensChiefs

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, finally. We survived another offseason, and we finally get the chance to spit out that nasty aftertaste that has lingered in our collective mouths since that fateful night in Pittsburgh last January (damn you, Daren Stone!) A new season is upon us, one that sees our expectations for our team astronomically higher than they were just one year ago. In this space in Week 1 last season, I picked the Bungles to trounce the Ravens 27-13. Like most of you, I all too vividly remembered the nightmare 5-11 previous season, and had little confidence that a rookie QB and rookie head coach could come in and make such an immediate impact.

Shame on me. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh made me eat my words, leading the Ravens to an 11-5 record and two playoff wins. The question now becomes, can they duplicate their success, and avoid a second-year letdown (or “sophomore slump,” if you want to get all cliche’ about it)?

The Ravens lost a couple pieces from that squad, most notably inside linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard, center Jason Brown, and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Every preview you read about the Ravens drones on and on about the loss of Ryan and Scott being potentially catastrophic. To which I say, GET OFF MY CLOUD!

The Ravens have proven, time and time again, that no matter the coordinator (Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan), or the pieces plugged into the positions, that it is the scheme, aggression, and defensive tradition here in Baltimore that makes them a perennial Top-5 defense. As much as we hate to admit it, there is another team to the northwest of us who have done the same thing for far longer than we have. Being stuck in the same division as those who shall not be named, the Ravens have followed the same model, and success has come along with it.

Bart Scott was the third best LB on last year’s team. Tavares Gooden is more than ready to pick up any slack that the departure of Bart may have left. Jim Leonhard was only playing because of injury to the usual starter, Dawan Landry, who is a better all-around safety. New coordinator Greg Mattison has been coaching for 38 years. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs are all back. The Ravens will once again be an elite defense, make no mistake about it.

The unknown, as always with the Ravens, is whether or not the offense can continue its evolution, and build upon the modicum of success it showed a year ago. Nine of 11 starters return, with center Jason Brown and tackle Willie Anderson being the only losses. Brown is replaced by Pro Bowler Matt Birk, a definite short-term upgrade, while rookie Michael Oher takes over for the retired Anderson. Oher has been a beast in the preseason, and looks like another first round gem from Ozzie Newsome. Still, expect some growing pains as he gets used to matching up against the top pass rushers in the NFL.

Flacco comes off a season in which he became the first rookie QB to ever win two playoff games. He passed for 2,971 yards in his rookie campaign, throwing 14 TD and 12 INT. Over the final 11 games of the season though, he had 13 of those TD, and only five of the picks, showing steady improvement. After a brief retirement due to the loss of his good friend Steve McNair, Flacco’s favorite target, Derrick Mason, returns for another shot at his first Super Bowl ring. Joining Mason in catching balls will again be Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, and the Ravens added former Bengal and Patriot Kelley Washington to the WR corps (no Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin, much to the chagrin of some). Todd Heap appears healthy and involved in the offense in the fake games, and L.J. Smith, if he can ever get on the field, will provide another strong target for Flacco.

Also expected to contribute heavily in the passing game, as well as on the ground, is second year RB Ray Rice. Rice appears by all accounts to be the Ravens “starter” at RB, with Willis McGahee relegated to the change-of-pace role, and Le’Ron McClain returning to his natural blocking-back FB position with the departure of Lorenzo Neal. We still expect “Pain Train” to get some touches here and there, but Rice should see the lion’s share of carries in 2009. Rice averaged 3.6 yards on 23 carries (ehhhhh) and 9.0 yards on 12 receptions (ooooh) in three preseason contests. The Ravens seemed very pass-heavy in the fake games though, and I have a feeling that was more for “practice” for Joe than an indication of their actual game plans for this season.

CasselWuss

Kansas City won just two games in 2008, and as a result installed a whole new regime. New head coach Todd Haley replaces Herm Edwards, and a big trade brought Matt Cassel from New England to displace Tyler Thigpen at QB. Cassel tweaked his MCL against Seattle in the third preseason game, and is still questionable for the game. If he is unable to go, Brodie Croyle will start at QB for the Chiefs, in which case, you might want to look away, Mama Croyle. The Chiefs still have WR Dwayne Bowe, an emerging star in the NFL, but they lost their longtime stalwart in the passing game, TE Tony Gonzalez, to the Atlanta Falcons.

Chiefs RB Larry Johnson was the last back to gain 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens, a streak of 35 games; this is an impressive number, despite what perennial nay-sayer Mike Preston would have you believe. He isn’t what he used to be, but Johnson could still give the Ravens trouble, especially if the ease with which the Jets and Panthers were able to run the ball on the Ravens in the preseason is any indication. Look for the Ravens to stack the box, and dare Cassel/Croyle to beat them through the air.

On defense, the Chiefs were #31 in the NFL in 2008 (#28 passing, #30 rushing). Linebacker Mike Vrabel came over in the Cassel trade (a fact he is none too pleased about), but one man can’t fix that kind of ineptitude. After losing DE Jared Allen, the Chiefs plummeted to the bottom of the league in sacks, taking down opposing QBs only 10 (!!!) times all year. This all paints a rosy picture for Joe Cool & Co.

The one thing that gives us pause is this – Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator for Arizona prior to coming to Kansas City. During Week 3 of the 2007 season, the Cardinals were stymied by Rex Ryan’s D for three quarters, before storming back with 17 points in the fourth to force a last-second FG by Matt Stover to win it for Baltimore. Did Todd Haley figure something out that he can carry over to Sunday’s game? Add in that the Chiefs acquired WR Terrance Copper, who spent part of 2009 with the Ravens, and the potential for some Willie Anderson-like shenanigans (the Bengals accused Anderson of tipping off the Ravens to their plays during Week 1 last year)…does this game get a little closer than we might originally think?

In short, no. As discussed, Greg Mattisons’s defense is not Rex Ryan’s defense. Nobody is confusing Cassel, Copper, and Bowe with Warner, Boldin, and Fitzgerald. And Copper wasn’t around long enough to learn much, if anything, of the Ravens’ system.

Ravens 24 Chiefs 10

Yours in the comments.

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Live from Westminster: McGahee and Grubbs off PUP list, Kelley Washington on

Posted on 30 July 2009 by Luke Jones

7:39 p.m. — The Ravens’ official site reports that Willis McGahee and Ben Grubbs have been removed from the PUP list, but wide receiver Kelley Washington was added to the list.  There was no word on the reason why Washington was placed on the list.

The Ravens also signed wide receiver Thomas White out of Baylor.  White has good size at 6-2 and 205 pounds.  You can read his college bio here.

6:35 p.m. — The press conference was spiced up by a surprise appearance by Terrell Suggs.  The Pro Bowler complimented Oher on his first practice as a Raven and even asked him about the upcoming season.  Great stuff from T-Sizzle!

6:18 p.m. — The press conference has concluded, and Michael Oher expressed relief at having the contract signed and being able to focus on football.  The entire press conference will be up in the WNST audio vault if you’d like to hear from the Ravens’ new right tackle directly.

Ravens general manager did most of the talking, but Oher expressed enthusiasm for being a Baltimore Raven.

Here are just a few notes from the press conference:

– Ozzie Newsome called it a tough negotiation, citing how very few first-round picks had signed and how the Ravens reported to camp earlier than most teams.  The general manager believes it’s a fair deal for both sides.

– Oher was disappointed that he was unable to join his fellow rookies for Monday’s reporting date.

“I felt like I let my team down.”

– Newsome went on to describe his first-round pick as a hard worker and a team player.  With Oher, Gaither, Terry, and Oniel Cousins in camp, he feels like the offensive tackle position has been taken care of.

– Newsome credited Pat Moriary and Oher’s agent Jimmy Sexton for stepping “outside of the box” to project the slot and complete the deal despite they’re being so few picks signed.

– The Ravens’ architect discussed the state of the offensive line, saying that it starts with the addition of a “great technician” like Matt Birk.  He believes the six-time Pro Bowler will be a great influence for the younger players on the line.

Newsome believes the Ravens now have great depth on the offensive line, an absolute necessity for succeeding in the NFL.

– Newsome credited offensive line coach John Matsko and assistant Andy Moeller as being as good as anyone in the league in terms of offensive line coaches.  Their influence on this young and athletic offensive line has been substantial.

3:34 p.m. — It is official.  Michael Oher has signed his brand new five-year contract with the Ravens.

We’re about two hours away from his press conference, and Ozzie Newsome will also be on hand to talk to reporters.

I’ll be on the scene, and we will have their comments for you in the WNST audio vault.

12:57 p.m. — Various media sources report Oher’s five-year deal is valued at up to $13.8 million with $7.8 million guaranteed–not too far away from my estimate of $8 million in guaranteed money.

12:42 p.m. — I just received official word from the Ravens that the Michael Oher press conference will take place at 5:30 p.m.

I will be live on the scene and will bring all the details to WNST.net.

12:11 p.m. — What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, the offensive line was one of the biggest question marks on the team.  Future Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden had officially retired, and the Ravens had severe question marks at both left and right tackle.

Fast forward to this year, and the Ravens now possess two young, talented tackles in Jared Gaither and Oher.  They drafted left guard Ben Grubbs with their first-round pick in 2007 and used their third-round pick that year to select right guard Marshal Yanda.  Though Yanda is currently on the PUP list, recovering from a severe knee injury sustained against the Colts last season, he is expected to play this season.

The Ravens may have lost center Jason Brown in free agency to the St. Louis Rams, but six-time Pro Bowl selection Matt Birk brings a veteran presence to an extremely talented and young offensive line.

The wide receiver position is obviously a concern, but any knowledgeable football fan will tell you the key to a successful offense starts in the trenches.  This offensive line is young and has the potential to be very good in 2009 and beyond.  If they can provide Flacco the sufficient amount of time to throw, this group of receivers will look much better—with or without Derrick Mason.

10:52 a.m. — For any Ravens fans wondering if Oher missing the first two days of practice is a major concern, remember the Ravens only had two other offensive linemen practicing.

Even if Oher had been present, he simply would have been working on drills with Robby Felix and Bryan Mattison.  If Oher is truly the dynamic force the Ravens expect him to be, I highly doubt his absence over the first two days will have any effect whatsoever—assuming he is in good physical shape.

10:22 a.m. — Though the Ravens have an administrative day closed to both the public and media today, I’ll be in Westminster for the Michael Oher press conference this afternoon.  General manager Ozzie Newsome will also talk to the media.

Oher, the 23rd overall pick, reached an agreement with the Ravens on a five-year contract last night, ending his brief holdout.  Terms have not been disclosed at this time, but the deal will likely include around $8 million in guaranteed money.

Oher will fly to Baltimore today, sign his contract, take a physical, and join his teammates in Westminster.  If all goes according to plan, he will be on the field practicing tomorrow for the Ravens’ first full-squad workouts of the summer.

The Ravens’ projected starting right tackle was the sixth first-round pick to agree to a contract.

Former Maryland Terp Darrius Heyward-Bey became the seventh this morning, agreeing to a deal with the Oakland Raiders.

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Looking ahead to training camp

Posted on 08 June 2009 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles in last place and owning the second-worst record in baseball, Baltimoreans are obviously looking ahead to the Ravens reporting for training camp on July 27—only seven weeks away.

The team holds another passing camp this week, as we continue to focus on several key positions.

As we look ahead to 2009, key departures include linebacker Bart Scott (New York Jets), center Jason Brown (St. Louis), safety Jim Leonhard (Jets), cornerback Chris McAlister (unsigned), offensive tackle Willie Anderson (retired), Lorenzo Neal (Raiders), tight end Dan Wilcox (unsigned) and defensive end Marques Douglas (Jets).

In addition to selecting six players in this year’s draft, the Ravens have added cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth (Atlanta) and Chris Carr (Tennessee), center Matt Birk (Minnesota), tight end L.J. Smith (Philadelphia), quarterback John Beck (Miami) and receiver Kelley Washington (New England).

With so many new veterans and rookies in the fold, training camp in Westminster, Md. figures to host several key positional battles as the Ravens prepare for their opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13.

The following is a look at five key positional battles—in no particular order—to watch during training camp at McDaniel College.

1.  Inside Linebacker

The departure of Scott leaves a gaping hold next to Ray Lewis at the other inside linebacker position.  Scott did the dirty, physical work of taking on blockers, leaving the veteran Lewis free to pursue the ball carrier.  The younger Scott was also stronger in pass coverage than Lewis.

Second-year player Tavares Gooden looks like the safe bet for Scott’s replacement in the starting defense, but this may not be a foregone conclusion.

The 2008 third-round pick is a health risk after spending most of last season on injured reserve with a hip injury.  He also had a history of concussions and shoulder problems at the University of Miami.

At the team’s earlier minicamps, Gooden appeared bigger and faster, a good sign for coordinator Greg Mattison’s defense. He has reportedly been spending time at Lewis’ home, watching film and gaining wisdom from the 34-year-old linebacker.

If Gooden does not get the nod on the inside, another option could be second-year linebacker Jameel McClain.  The undrafted free agent from Syracuse emerged last year to grab a spot in training camp and worked his way up the depth chart, earning significant playing time as the season progressed.

McClain finished the season with 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks and was a strong contributor on special teams.  His biggest challenge will be adjusting to the inside after playing outside linebacker last season and defensive end in college.

Fifth-round draft pick Jason Phillips (TCU) is a gritty and physical linebacker, but he would be a long shot to grab the starting spot as a rookie.  The organization could also look to Brendon Ayanbadejo, but his value on special teams would be hard to sacrifice with other options at inside linebacker.

2.  Backup Quarterback

A quarterback controversy is brewing in the Charm City; only for once, it’s not over who will be starting under center—Joe Flacco has finally stabilized the position for the Ravens.  The real battle will take place between incumbent backup Troy Smith and newly-signed John Beck, a former second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

Smith found moderate success running the Ravens’ version of the Wildcat formation—the “Suggs” package—at times last season, but his size (6’0″) makes it difficult for him to spot receivers in the pocket, forcing him to move outside. The 6’2″ Beck is a more traditional drop back passer.

Beck has strong ties to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (Miami’s head coach in 2007) and would figure to have a strong grasp on the playbook, improving his chances to overtake Smith for the backup spot.

The Ravens will once again try to use Smith’s athleticism, so he figures to be the No. 2 quarterback (the No. 3 can only enter the game if the starter and backup are injured).  However, a long-term injury to Flacco might cause the coaching staff to play the more traditional quarterback Beck.

Smith oozes with confidence, but he failed to grab hold of the starting job last preseason before suffering a tonsil infection, opening the door for Flacco to become the team’s starter in his rookie season.  This factor might weigh on coach John Harbaugh’s mind as he decides who will back up the talented Flacco.

3.  Kick/Punt Returner

With the departure of Leonhard to the Jets, the Ravens must find a new punt returner and try to stabilize the kick return position.

Newly-signed defensive back Chris Carr had a good season with the Titans and would likely be the top candidate for the job.  He averaged 28.1 yards per kick return (fourth in the NFL) and 10.1 yards on punt returns.

If injuries in the secondary would force Carr into the starting lineup, several in-house candidates are presently on the roster.

Yamon Figurs began last season as the primary kick and punt returner, but it’s clear he is not a favorite of the current coaching staff.  Figurs appeared hesitant in returning kicks and struggles holding onto the ball at times.  He is currently recovering from foot surgery and will need to have a strong preseason to stay on the roster.

Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb, a third-round pick, returned kicks at Nicholls St. and will compete for the job.

Tom Zbikowski returned kicks at the end of last season but did not provide much of an impact.

Sixth-round pick and rookie running back Cedric Peerman also returned kicks at the University of Virginia, but the team would figure to allow Peerman to focus his efforts competing at the running back position.

Carr would figure to have the upper hand, but strong training camp performances would certainly blur the competition a great deal.

4.  Kicker

For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Ravens are uncertain who will be their kicker on Opening Day.  Matt Stover was not re-signed but is on general manager Ozzie Newsome’s speed dial if the other options do not work out.  Harbaugh continues to speak with the veteran kicker regularly.

Steve Hauschka was the team’s kickoff specialist in 2008 and made one of two field goal attempts.  He has a big leg, but trying a long field goal before the half is quite different than kicking a game-winning 42-yarder when the pressure is on late in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens signed rookie free agent Graham Gano from Florida State to compete for the job. Gano won the Lou Groza Award in 2008, awarded to college football’s best kicker.  He made 24 of 26 attempts last season with the Seminoles, hitting five of seven from 50 or more yards.

While a battle at kicker isn’t going to capture the city’s attention, it is crucial to stabilize the position entering the season.  If neither Hauschka nor Gano can win the job in the preseason, look for Stover to return for his 14th season with the Ravens.

5.  Right Tackle

This position would have been the featured battle of training camp had veteran Willie Anderson not announced his retirement several weeks ago.

First-round pick (23rd overall) Michael Oher of Ole Miss is a tremendous talent at 6-5 and 309 pounds.  His story was well-chronicled prior to the draft, and the Ravens appeared to snatch up another highly-talented player in the later stages of the first round.

Oher has performed well in OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and has picked up the offense quickly, according to the coaching staff.

With veteran tackle Adam Terry continuing to battle an ankle injury, the job appears to be Oher’s to lose.  Terry would be the ideal backup for both Oher and left tackle Jared Gaither since he has experience playing both positions in the NFL.

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Birk center of Ravens attention

Posted on 03 March 2009 by caseywillett

Matt Birk looks like he could be very close to becoming a member of the Baltimore Ravens this afternoon. Birk has spent the afternoon visiting with the Ravens at their facility. Birk was a name that I had heard mentioned with the Ravens going back to last Friday when free agency began and it was apparent that Jason Brown was leaving town.

The Ravens have dealt with Birk’s agent before, as he is represented by the same agent as Joe Flacco.

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Tuesday Morning's Crab Cakes and Light Beer

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Tuesday Morning’s Crab Cakes and Light Beer

Posted on 03 March 2009 by Chris Bonetti

The Swinging Bunt

Cover Curse?  Everyone has heard about the dreaded magazine or video game cover jinx.  Whether its Sports Illustrated or Madden, if your mug is up on their, watch-out!  One would certainly think that no publication would want this bad rep… so what are they to do?  Multiple covers, of course.  MLB ’09 has done just that, and has issued custom covers for all Major League Clubs for their fans to enjoy.  Newly re-signed second basemen Brian Roberts appears on the Orioles’ cover with beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the background… let’s all pray he doesn’t have a bad year!

Baez is a criminal!  Blogs by Fans, Spring Training ’09 lists what they believe are the 40 worst contracts signed by active players in Major League Baseball.  The Orioles are only responsible for signing one of these said deals.  In 2006, ’09 roster hopeful Danys Baez, inked a three season $19M contract, which the O’s are $6.33M on the hook for this year.  This one-time Cuban defector should be deported for stealing, seriously.  Newly signed starter Adam Eaton makes the list also, but the three year $24.51M deal he got in ’06 is being paid for mostly by the Philadelphia Phillies.  If those O’s were defending world champions they wouldn’t need their horrible decision trying out for their rotation either.

Oh, those sad, sad Nats.  O’s fans… at least you’re not Nats’ fans.  This has been a very difficult week for the Washington Nationals organization, maybe their most trying since moving from their club from our neighbors to the north to our nation’s capital.  While the team remains in Spring Training preparing for the season, it’s been off-field issues that have gotten negative national attention from poor decisions the front office has made.  These choices have led to a tremendously disappointed fan-base, and under great scrutiny GM Jim Bowden resigned yesterday.  The worst of their moves?  … some say its the scamming of Latin ball-players… I’ll mention the questionable move to have this thing is their mascot.  What is that?

Scanning the Blogosphere

SI.com Photos sections has the top 8 college basketball games to end the regular season in pictures.  #7 features tonight’s game at Comcast Center, Wake Forest-Maryland.  The photo for the game is Greivis driving right for a lay-up earlier this season against Miami.

Pro Football Talks has new St. Louis Ram and ex-Raven, Jason Brown’s ‘not exactly complementary’ comments on former teammate Kyle Boller.  I’m sure being called “gun shy” is exactly what Boller needs when he himself is looking for a contract as a free agent, as well.

The Sporting Muse lists the most intimidating players in all of sports history by each sport.  Two players who have played (or maybe still do) in Baltimore make the cut.  Ray Lewis was recognized in the NFL, the other may surprise you… former Oriole flop Albert Belle made baseball’s list.

Pro Football 24×7 explain that “Bart Scott’s agent dupes Jets GM.” Ozzie doesn’t get duped by anyone!

Scout.com says in their latest 2 round mock draft says the Ravens will take USC OLB Clay Matthews and Jairus Byrd,  a corner from Oregon.

Blogs by Fans, Spring Training ’09 previews the O’s projected Opening Day roster and gives insight into the team’s key roster battles.

Busted Coverage:  The latest from our favorite dumb ass liquored up kicker, Steeler Jeff Reed… it includes puking and signing women’s private areas.  Shocker.

CMS Video of the Morning

The newly launched MLB Network is looking at every team in their “30 Teams in 30 Days” season preview.  Here’s a link to the Baltimore Orioles edition, which aired February 27th.

Also, as the Loyola beat-writer here at this fine station, I would be remiss not to alert everyone to the fact that I have posted the video I shot from Rider’s buzzer-beating victory over the ‘Hounds last week on Senior Night at Reitz Arena. Painful for any fan of the Green and Grey.

The Morning’s Final Thought

The Baltimore Orioles as an organization have their problems.  Breaking news for every, I know.  Everyone knows they take a lot of grief, and overwhelmingly deserved at times, from fans, and media alike… heck, I’d say if you’re listener to WNST, you’ve heard all about it.

In order to regain the trust of the town, the baseball team needs to really make a concerted effort to reach out to rebuild burned bridges.  Being present doing good things in the community is probably the quickest way back to good graces, but lowering ticket prices is a nice start as well.

Here’s the latest updates on the Orioles’ 2009 Birdland Stimulus Package.

It’s really important for the club to focus on fans that are my age and lower.  I’m 23 and personally, with the exception of a few occasions, during my 5 years in Baltimore… I’ve only been to ball games on Tuesday and Friday nights because of those ‘special’ nights.

It’s a Charles Street length road to travel to get the whole way back to being the biggest game in town… but at least they’re maybe getting past the crawling stage.

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What About Stover ???

Posted on 02 March 2009 by Rex Snider

We can all probably agree Matt Stover is not the kicker of yesterday ….. or five years ago.  His presence on the 2008 Baltimore Ravens roster may have been more of a hindrance, than benefit.

Overall, Stover converted 27 of 33 field goal attempts and he proved, once again, to be MONEY inside 30 yards.  By all accounts, he’s a better MAN than player – and he’s a damn good player.  He brings integrity and stature to the organization and he’s devotedly committed to the Baltimore community, from a stewardship perspective.

Yet, in truth, we’re all uneasy about Matt Stover’s leg ….. especially beyond 40 yards.  If he’s lining up for a 45 yard attempt, you’re holding your breath, right?  And, if the prospect of a 50+ yard field goal looms, we’re bound to see Sam Koch trotting onto the field.

I’m not suggesting a team can’t be effective by pinning the opposing offense deep in it’s own territory.  In fact, the Ravens capitalized on many opportunities, in 2008.  Still, it’s tough to compete with the Patriots, Colts and Steelers when we know they’re gonna attempt and probably convert field goal opportunities beyond the 35 yard line.

Given Stover’s limited range, it has also become necessary to carry a “long kicker” on the roster.  Enter Steve Hauschka.  This predicament has certainly impacted John Harbaugh’s decisons on his active roster, each gameday.  Eventually, it’s gonna hurt – maybe it already has …..

I could elaborate further on reasons why Matt Stover might not be a good fit for the 2009 Baltimore Ravens.  No problem here.  But, TELL HIM.

Have you ever been in limbo?  It sucks, huh?  I’ve been there and hated every bit of the ride.  It affects the guy wavering in uncertainty, as well as his family.  Yep, there are actually families connected to the inner workings and personnel decsions of professional sports franchises.

I understand it’s a cruel business.  Players get cut all the time.  In training camp, many “slapdicks” know they’re there to get cut and some get the shock of their lives when the “coach wants to see them ….. and they need to bring their playbook.”  It’s unforgiving.

Yet, Matt Stover isn’t like most guys.  He’s the last remaining member of the team that relocated from Cleveland.  He’s made Baltimore his HOME and he’s given an immeasurable amount of love to the organization and this city.

For once, I’d hope Ozzie Newsome, Steve Bisciotti and their staff would break from any normal “it’s just business” tactics and handle Matt Stover’s situation with some personal and humane regard.  Don’t string the guy along.

If you don’t want him back, tell him.  After all, there was no problem in doing it for Jason Brown.  If you’re not sure whether you want Stover back, tell him.  But, do something.

He’s not just another kicker ….. even if his abilities have lowered his appeal to such a level.

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Grade the Ravens on free agency so far

Posted on 28 February 2009 by caseywillett

Although it has been only been a little over a day and a half since the beginning of free agency, what grade would you give the Ravens so far.

Here are the only things that we know for sure :

Additions:

Domonique Foxworth

Subtractions:

Jason Brown to Rams

Bart Scott to Jets

 

What grade do you give them at this point?

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Ray Made His Bed — Now He Has To Sleep In It

Posted on 27 February 2009 by Alex Thomas

Nestor brought up a really good point early this afternoon on his show Limited Access sponsored by Royal Farms.

I had been wondering about this all day, and hadn’t had the chance to blog about it until now – Ray Lewis is not garnering the attention he thought he would from potential suitors in the NFL.

Bart Scott has an offer from the Jets, and is in the process of allowing Ozzie Newsome to match the offer. (By the way, good for him…maybe Ray should take a lesson from Bart on how to properly do business in the NFL.)

The Redskins have made Albert Haynesworth a very rich man.

Jason Brown is on a plane to St. Louis.

Domonique Foxworth is signed with the Ravens, which I am very excited about. I think he’s an upgrade over Corey Ivy, and he has a great reputation as a community leader and a positive influence in the NFL.

Fred Taylor is the newest member of the New England Patriots.

Corey Ivy is sitting down with Rex Ryan and Jets brass later today.

Sage Rosenfels has inked a two year deal with the Vikings.

And where’s Ray Lewis? He’s not on a plane. He’s not in an owner’s office. He’s not on the phone with NFL GMs.

He’s sitting at home waiting like the rest of us.

Obviously, there is not a dire need in the league for Ray Lewis’ services, and he obviously thinks much more of himself than other teams do.

And it’s not like teams don’t have money to spend. Tampa Bay just cleared tons of room under the salary cap. The Dolphins also have money to spend.

The Jets used to have money to spend until they jumped on the Bart Scott bandwagon, effectively leaving Ray Lewis out in the cold. In reality, the Jets cannot afford to sign both Scott and Lewis, and the Jets were probably the most logical fit for Ray Lewis considering the ties with Rex Ryan and the need for linebacker help.

I am a huge Ray Lewis fan, and I still hope that he winds up in purple next year, but he has handled the free agency situation all wrong. From start to finish, he has botched every opportunity possible to not only appease his fans in Baltimore, but to do what’s economically right for him.

Now that he’s made his bed, he’ll have to sleep in it. He may leave here with a tarnished reputation because of the crap he’s pulled via the Jamie Dukes interview and the Demarcus Ware story.

And what’s worse, one of Ray’s cronies told Adam Schefter that he no longer wants to play in Baltimore because he is insulted beyond repair. He thinks the Ravens have continually low-balled him, when on the contrary, he’s proverbially ball-tapping himself.

This not only upsets Ravens fans, but it’s detrimental to Ray’s wallet. Other teams are not going to like the way this is all unfolding, and all teams except for the Cowboys tend to shy away from these three-ring circus acts. In case you haven’t heard, Jerry Jones has repeatedly told the media that he is not going to sign big name free agents this off-season.

In my mind, I think he’ll end up coming back to Baltimore for less money than he could have collected in the first place. And he has nobody to blame but himself.

He has left $17 million in guaranteed money on the table in Baltimore, an offer that is very fair for a 34 year old linebacker, and he may never see that dollar amount again.

I think he’ll test the market and find out that teams like the Dolphins are willing to give him something like $12-13 million guaranteed. He’ll come crawling back to Ozzie Newsome and ask for the original offer after struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

The only problem is, the Ravens won’t offer him that much money after they see his true market value. And truth be told, they probably won’t even be able to afford the original offer anymore. The Ravens will be in the hunt for a strong wide receiver this off-season, and good wide outs don’t come cheap.

As much as I love Ray, I really wish he would have handled this situation better. It would have been better for him, the Baltimore Ravens, and the fans to go to every media outlet and sing the praises of John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti. You know, say something like: “I’d love to be a Raven, why would I want to go anywhere else?”

If anything, saying something like that would put all the pressure on the Ravens to re-sign the future Hall of Famer. Instead, Ray has royally ticked off a lot of Baltimoreans, a group of people who by-and-large have had his back throughout all of his off-the-field struggles.

It’s too bad, really. For as intelligent of a football player as Ray Lewis is, he has demonstrated time and time again that he’s not too bright when it comes to business savvy and public relations, and he may seriously regret some of these decisions when it comes time to sign a contract this spring.

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